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NBA Power Rankings Watch: the Mavericks make moves in Doncic’s return

The numbers may be puzzling, leaving analysts guessing about what happens next with the Mavericks.

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Washington Wizards v Dallas Mavericks Photo by Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images

It was a short week of basketball last week, but in that time the Mavericks notched a win against the Los Angeles Clippers before dropping one at home to the Washington Wizards. The win in LA, combined with the return of Luka Doncic and play of Kristaps Porzingis, has shifted the Mavericks spot in most NBA Power Rankings among other media outlets.

There is still plenty of speculation about the Mavericks, and their spot among Western Conference playoff teams. But there is still thought they might be rounding into a better form. Here is where the Mavericks are in this week’s NBA Power Rankings Watch.

ESPN

Rank: 9

Last Week: 10

Kristaps Porzingis’ career-long streak of seven consecutive 20-plus-point performances was snapped in Saturday’s loss to the Wizards. He was particularly pleased about being a featured act in two games against the Clippers, as opposed to being used almost solely as a spacer in last season’s playoff series. “What a contrast, right?” said Porzingis, who scored 55 points on 19-of-34 shooting as the Mavs split the two games in L.A. “Honestly, I haven’t felt like this for a while. Last time I can remember was probably [with] New York.” — MacMahon

NBA

Rank: 9

Last Week: 14

With the Mavs’ original starting lineup having been outscored by 16.3 points per 100 possessions (the third worst mark among 25 lineups that have played at least 100 minutes), Willie Cauley-Stein replaced Dwight Powell in the lineup last week. But Cauley-Stein played just 27 minutes and the Mavs were outscored by 16 points per 100 possessions in 46 total minutes with one of the two centers on the floor over their two games.

They still got an important win in L.A. on Tuesday (as Luka Doncic returned from a three-game absence), getting 30 points (including six in overtime) from Kristaps Porzingis. He played big, taking advantage of switches and scoring 24 of the 30 points in the paint (where he shot 7-for-11) or at the free throw line (10-for-10). The Clippers blitzed or doubled Doncic quite a bit in the fourth quarter and overtime, and the Mavs took advantage, swinging the ball to open shooters. They were more efficient against Washington on Saturday, but they allowed the Wizards to shoot 58% and score 42 points in the restricted area.

The Mavs are one of two teams – the Spurs are the other – that have played just 18 games. Their schedule starts to get busier (seven games in 11 days) with a Friday-Saturday back-to-back where they’re hosting the Pelicans and Grizzlies. They’re 5-0 within the Southwest Division thus far.

The Athletic

Rank: 17 (Tier 3: Playoff Hopeful)

Last Week: 16

First Quarter Grade: B-

The Dallas Mavericks have been dominating the bad teams and really hurting against the good teams. But to be fair, three of those losses to good teams came without Luka Doncic on the floor. The Mavs are a work in progress with a new coach for the first time since the start of the Obama Administration. Jason Kidd is trying to implement some stuff, and it’s resulted in a more balanced profile between their offense and defense. I’m just not sure if there’s a world in which the offense gets back to being great with the way they’re running things. Maybe Luka can affect all that. He is a special talent, and there’s plenty of room for improvement with him this season. He can lead them to draw more free-throw attempts, which will help. But to continue to compete on defense as much as they have, the Mavs have to start defending the 3-point line a lot better.

What was the preseason prediction? Kristaps Porzingis has his best season.

How does that look? It’s a little all over the place. Porzingis has been in and out of the lineup. Some of his numbers and efficiency are down from last year, but some advanced metrics throw this campaign into the best he’s had in his career. I think it’s far too early to call it, and those metrics don’t match what I feel like I’m seeing out there. But I do think this one still has a chance to come through.

Sports Illustrated

Rank: 11

Last Week: 14

Thankful (knock on wood) for Kristaps (knock on wood) Porziņģis’s (knock on wood) relatively good (knock on wood) health so far this season. As great as Luka Dončić is, the Mavericks will not be a playoff power unless their other max-salaried player produces at an All-Star level and stays on the court. Porziņģis did miss five games with a back strain, but his knees are finally sound (knock on wood), and he’s been a force lately, averaging 22.8 points, 8.7 rebounds and 1.3 blocks over his last 10 games.